Infections in Nursing Homes: An Expensive and Increasing Threat – Part 2

Read part one here.

3 Ways to Prevent Infection Spread in Nursing Home

Compared to hospitals of the same size, long-term care facilities have four times fewer infection-prevention specialists. So, nursing homes must be particularly innovative in their approach.

Following are three critical and cost-effective strategies.

Disinfect the air.

At hospitals and nursing homes alike, hand-hygiene lapses are inevitable and surface cleaning is inherently inadequate; bacterial levels on bed rails will rebound within just 3 hours of disinfection.

So care facilities must augment surface-cleaning and hand-hygiene protocols with continuous air dis-infection. When pathogens are removed from the air, they can’t be inhaled or ingested by residents and won’t land on surfaces that residents or staff touch.

Novaerus’ ultra-low energy plasma technology, used in nursing homes worldwide, destroys viral, bacterial, and fungal pathogens on contact and is safe for continued use around the most vulnerable populations.  

One study found Novaerus technology reduced airborne C. difficile by 99.6% within 20 minutes and 99.9% after 40 minutes. In another study, the technology reduced Influenza A aerosols by 99.9% within 20 minutes.

Novaerus units are also highly effective against multiple drug-resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis, a “perennial threat” to nursing home residents.

The same technology also eradicates unpleasant odours, a benefit greatly appreciated by nursing-home staff.

Recruit — and retain — more experienced personnel.

Hiring more skilled healthcare workers “ultimately leads to cost savings,” concluded a cost analysis of infection outcomes in nursing homes.

Experienced staff are more likely to recognize early symptoms of infection, such as fever, elevated heart rate, altered mental status, or not eating — symptoms that patients themselves may not report because of dementia, stroke, or medication side-effects.

In addition, staff with more tenure are more familiar with the residents, so they’re better able to notice when an individual’s behaviour is out of the ordinary.

Monitor antibiotic use more closely.

The world’s superbug crisis is largely driven by antibiotic overuse and misuse, and nursing homes contribute in a big way. Two-thirds of nursing-home residents are prescribed antibiotics each year, and 25% to 75% of these prescriptions are inappropriate.

Nursing homes must follow more stringent antibiotic guidelines, such as those described in the U.S. government’s Core Elements of Antibiotic Stewardship for Nursing Homes.

Nursing home patients suffer a wide variety of infections, including urinary tract infections, lower respiratory tract infections, skin and soft-tissue infections, and gastroenteritis caused by c. difficile or norovirus. Infections that seem mild at first can spread — a UTI can become a bloodstream infection — and quickly become fatal.

Given the severe risks and steep costs of infection spread among residents, it is urgent that nursing homes invest in the personnel and technology necessary to halt this crisis.